On Writing and the NYTimes

NOTE: I wrote this in September of 2008, little did I know back then that I would be sitting less than a foot away from a NYTimes Pulitzer Prize winning journalist a few months later (Ira Berkow Sportswriting seminar at NLU on April 2009).

I really enjoy reading the online version of the NYTimes. Particularly, articles under their social/diversion categories–because I always connect more with relaxed topics than political or other matters which usually just show one side of the equation or not enough information to provide closure on a particular event or topic. Once you write about something subjective such as food or wine, or a hobby, it’s easier to have lower conflict expectations–though to be fair, that’s not always true, you may fire up a particular fan with the wrong statement.

As a writer/editor I always enjoy reading the NYTimes writers’ work, not only to better inform myself about favorite or new topics, but because I like to keep an eye out for interesting writing techniques. I’m a particular fan of the tone they set in their articles. Tone is the way the types of words and sentence structure come together to create a sense of the authors’ voice and the story/article’s atmosphere as you’re reading.

A great article in the NYTimes Dining & Wine section this week approaches the topic of how oenophiles (wine enthusiasts/collectors) may face some decision-making in regards to, perhaps, curtailing their wine spending due to the current state of the economy. This is one of the more costly and interesting hobbies. People who collect wine consider their prizes both very personal and a point of pride to showcase.

So here’s the quote that got me smiling as I was reading this particular article:
“In not so rare instances, passion gives way to excess and possibly even to mania, and from there you may as well take a corkscrew to the bank account. I’ve known more than a few wine lovers who’ve had to conceal purchases from their more practical spouses.”
It is poetic, flowy, and humorous. Anyone who has a hobby they’re passionate about can relate, but yet the tone is definitely a level higher than for your typical pastime (shopping, sports).

It’s a tricky thing these days when one sets out to write in a tone for a particular intellectual or social level. For higher social/intellectual levels, you can’t be too fancy or old-fashioned or else be labeled out of date–or worse, from a particular area of the country. You also need to reach out and be approachable, but not so much that you’ve become too casual or overly friendly to your reader.

Writing is much more of a mental exercise than most realize. It’s difficult finding that happy medium where a writer successfully connects with their audiences, sustains the connection up to the end, and releases their attention after providing value and release…without turning them off along the way. This is why I dread sometimes what instant messaging and online, quick communications could turn our youths into. Why have we turned into people that can’t communicate meaning clearly unless we accompany text with emoticons to prevent confusion or misunderstanding? I’ve seen what millennials pass off as marketing communications to certain global audiences, and let me tell you…that doesn’t fare well when it comes to long-term relationship building or connecting on any level. By the way, I’m smack in the middle of the X Gen and the Millenials, so I get to label myself be the devil’s advocate on both generations’ writing issues ;o) — ha ha (irony anyone?)

I began this blog to exercise my writing mind, and write freely whenever I felt there was a good topic. Sometimes I fall away from this primary goal and instead write quick, casual entries. Time is always a factor.

Reading as much as you can is definitely the first step to better understanding tone, approach, word use, audiences, and how to best connect all these elements cohesively.

Cheers! Here’s to good reading! 😉


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